In My Own Words - General stupidity by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

I recently read a novel in which a mother informed her children that they were not allowed to call anything or anyone stupid. I can certainly understand the need not to call someone stupid: people may be misinformed or have developmental disabilities, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have understanding. As a rabbi, I’ve noted that there are no stupid questions: the ones people worry are stupid can be some of the most interesting ones asked. As an executive editor, though, I have come to admit that there are some stupid questions, for example, asking on a Thursday afternoon if we can get an article into that week’s paper – something physically impossible because the paper has already been printed and is in the mail for arrival on Friday or Saturday, depending on the Postal Service. I admit this question usually occurs because people don’t think about how the paper actually gets to their mailboxes. I’m fine with explaining that the first time. I still won’t call someone stupid the second time, but usually have less patience when someone asks this the third or fourth time.
However, I have been reading more and more in the news lately that strikes me as behavior and actions that deserve to be a called stupid. The particular definition I’m using is “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.” One case below shows a lack of understanding (in this example, an understanding of human biology and the limits of medicine); the second, how easy it is for stupidity to spread; the third, a lack of common sense (in this instance, not realizing that your behavior is going to get you in trouble); and the fourth displays flaws in political thinking.
Teaching legislators some basic science
In their fight against women’s medical rights, legislators in Ohio have introduced a bill that requires doctors to “reimplant an ectopic pregnancy” or face charges for “abortion murder.” The legislators’ lack of understanding is awe-inspiringly stupid.
1) The reason for ending an ectopic pregnancy is that it threatens a woman’s life. A fertilized egg in a normal pregnancy implants itself in a woman’s uterus. In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg settles in another part of a woman’s body, which means the pregnancy is not viable. According to, “An ectopic pregnancy can’t proceed normally. The fertilized egg can’t survive, and the growing tissue may cause life-threatening bleeding, if left untreated.” 
2) Currently, there is no medical procedure available that allows doctors to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy. The legislators are asking a doctor to do something impossible. And, if that’s not clear enough, let me say it in another way: This procedure does not exist. 
3) If the bill passes, any doctor performing surgery for an ectopic pregnancy – even if it is to save a woman’s life – would be charged with murder. That’s because it is impossible for them to take the embryo and reimplant it in the uterus because, as I said in #2, no such procedure exists. I’m not certain what would happen if a doctor refuses operate on an ectopic pregnancy and a woman dies because she didn’t have the surgery. Could the doctor be arrested for murder for refusing to save a woman’s life? Either way, the doctor would end up in jail.
As of now, in order to protect the fetus of an ectopic pregnancy, the legislators are risking a woman’s life, the result of which would be her death and, with it, the death of the unviable fetus. I think this qualifies as a Catch 22 – “as a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.” Or we could just call the legislators’ action what it is: stupid.
Conspiracy theories
I was going to start this section with a completely and totally ridiculous conspiracy theory to highlight how conspiracy theories have gotten out of hand. However, considering the nature of current conspiracy theories, I was afraid that someone might actually take what I said seriously. The reason for my fear is that a national news service is giving credence to a conspiracy theory that strikes me as totally bizarre: QAnon.
If you don’t know what QAnon is, then you were like me before reading an article that Fox News interviewed someone about the conspiracy, but the effort was not to debunk it: instead, the coverage has been called neutral by some and positive by others. In fact, those who believe in the conspiracy posted their pleasure with Fox News on Twitter. It pains me to have to explain the conspiracy, but the basic idea is that “President Donald Trump is secretly working to take down a satanic child sex trafficking operation run in part by Hillary Clinton.” (That quote is from an article about the Fox News coverage that originally appeared on the Business Insider website.) I thought the Clinton-sex-traffic-operation conspiracy idea had long been accepted for what it is: a complete and absolute fantasy. 
I know I’m supposed to be accepting of people whose ideas differ from mine, but there comes a time when facts trump belief. And Jews who might find this theory appealing or amusing should remember all the harm done – up to and including mass murder – from those who accepted, and still accept, conspiracy theories about Judaism and the Jewish people. 
Teenage stupidity
It’s common knowledge that teenagers – particularly, but not limited to, male teenagers – tend to do stupid things when they are part of a group. I’m not sure what the three teenage boys in London were thinking when they threatened two women on a bus because the women refused to engage in a sex act. The incident started after the teens discovered (I’m not sure how) that the women were partners. What began as verbal threats and sexual gestures by the teens turned more physical and escalated into the women being attacked and beaten. 
The article I read didn’t say whether or not the teens had been drinking or using drugs. To admit they were under the influence might get them into more trouble. I just can’t imagine what they were thinking when this started: oh, it’s good fun to bother two women minding their own business. Or, let’s see how much trouble we can get ourselves into? 
Although this instance is based on the women’s sexuality, similar incidents have happened all to often because of someone’s race or religion. The recent beatings of Orthodox Jews, who are easily identified by their clothing or head covering, should give us pause before we excuse the teens’ behavior or blame the victims. I also have to wonder about the other riders on the bus. Perhaps the teens’ behavior was so threatening they were afraid to interfere. Or, perhaps, they just didn’t care.
Judging judges
The Trump administration will no longer use the American Bar Association’s ratings for lawyers when evaluating judges for the federal bench. What’s ironic is that the ABA gave Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s controversial nominee to the Supreme Court, its highest rating. I do know that judges chosen for other judgeships received more mixed ratings and commentators have complained these appointees are not deserving of their positions. 
It’s not the decision about the ABA itself that bothers me since there are studies that claim it supports judges with more liberal positions, although the group itself declares that politics play no role in its decisions. That makes sense in light of the fact that President George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominees also received the ABA’s highest ratings. What does bother me is that no rating system has been mentioned to replace that of the ABA. This could easily lead to people being made judges because they gave large campaign contributions or are friends of a candidate, or because of their political views.
There has to be some type of investigation into a potential judge’s work and background. Our legal system is far too important to leave it to the whims of the executive branch. To do so would just be stupid. And those who support their party’s choice of judges for political reasons should remember that the opposing party will have the same opportunity when it is in power.